Pat Kenny’s crew held RTÉ’s Toy Show a week earlier than in previous years–that annual event that for many really uncorks the Christmas spirit. Even so, it must have made many parents realise they’d never be able to find that longed-for toy, now that everybody else would want to buy it too! But what if the little one in their house would be unable to manage the controls of that phantasmagorical radio-operated monster, or might chew the sexy gear off the Bratz dolls? What do you get your little one for Christmas if he/she is unable to negotiate the pavements in a scaled-down Ferrari, or sing to the latest karaoke-video kit?
The following day, Saturday 30 November, marked another Toy Show–where young children and their parents could browse, touch and feel—before writing their letters to Santa. The hall at Cheeverstown House, Templeogue in Dublin, was filled with stalls, and staff members and volunteers offered advice behind an array of bright-coloured toys, books and games. In the weeks before the Show, Cheeverstown staff members enjoyed a number of reconnaissance trips around Dublin’s shops. Shop managers were interested, if a bit mystified, in trying to meet their requests for suitable items. This had too many moving parts; that was too loud; that would be downright dangerous! But, hey, look at that mirror cube, squelshy sausage, scrunchy-textured mitt, that multisensory book, or those easy-to-hold four-colour crayon ‘domes’. Nimble Fingers, Mothercare, The Early Learning Centre and Hughes Books yielded a wide range of toys and books—from stocking fillers to major presents that could easily match the expenditure on Sis’s trendy game or Bro’s new bike. Some sent representatives, and others toys and pricelists. The therapists handed prepared sheets of suggestions for adapting toys for speech and language and occupational therapy goals and messy play and sensory play ideas. Nora Cleary from ‘Comfigear’ in Tramore, had a great range of practical and comfortable wheelchair raingear and bibs that looked like ordinary shirt fronts.
Specialist toy and mobility equipment distributors, Wesco, Michael Doherty and Fred Storey were also on hand to show their wares. Parents were dazzled by Rolls Royce wheeled gismos, such as tricycles and posture-control walkers, and were weighed down with mail-order catalogues full of toys, children’s furniture, tactile balls, adapted cutlery, puppets, balls galore, etc. etc. Naturally, Santa made amoved around among the children.
Brothers and sisters dashed around with a delightful multi-bubble maker that surpassed that over-engineered thing on the Late Late Show the night before, and throughout the day Santa chatted with all the children
Not wishing to leave out their older service users, over in Cheeverstown’s Airton Road Enterprise and Employment Centre, a Creative Activities day was underway. Clients took turns to try out a range of new crafts and leisure activities. Seán led one group in drama and movement, which progressed from rolling eyes, then shoulders, then really getting into the rhythm of the background music—that couldn’t be turned up full-pitch, because next door was the room for yoga with Mary. Next to that, floral centrepieces were being assembled, awaiting the finishing touch of a Christmas candle in the centre. Down in the corner of the centre, another group were busy making Christmas cards with rubber stamps. They also decorated gingerbread trees and stars—before swapping around with the group from yoga. Individual sessions (very popular!) were slotted in for massage and reiki throughout the day, and no doubt, the staff team who organised the day’s activities were ready for that too by late afternoon! Patricia Boylan, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Social and Vocational Rehabilitation, explained that the day offered a chance for adult clients to ‘try something new’ and for staff to share some innovative ideas.